I watched a conversation unfold over Facebook the other day, and I had to re-read one of the comments several times just to make sure I had actually understood it correctly. It turns out I had, and it bothered me enough that I am addressing it now because I think it’s a prevalent thought in today’s society. And I think it’s wrong.
A friend of mine expressed frustration over dressing and acting like a classy woman and she was STILL looked over like a piece of meat and talked to in a way that was very degrading. I can’t help but think that it is too bad her husband wasn’t there because I doubt those men would ever talk that way to any woman again. Anyway, the thing that tripped me up was another woman’s comment in reply to my friend. “Don’t you think the women today have something to do with it? The way they dress and act?’
What I took away from her comment was the belief that a human only deserves to be treated with respect by another human if they’re dressed and act a certain way.
THAT IS WRONG.
I am inordinately blessed in that I come from a long line of gentleman who have sacrificed physical safety and even in some cases, their careers, because they refused to stand by while women were being disrespected. They do not dissect a person’s character before deciding how they will treat others around them. They have a basic belief that they are called as men, to treat all women like ladies, EVEN IF THEY'RE NOT. This is what makes them gentlemen.
Why? Because this is how respectable human beings treat each other. How other people treat you should NOT define how you treat them. And if you treat a woman based upon her actions as a lady, all that says about you is that you are NOT a gentleman.
I’ve been seeing a lot of E-cards going around that say, “Chivalry isn’t dead. It just followed wherever being lady-like went.” When I first saw this, I loved it! I feel like we women have gotten lazy, and you know from our previous posts on class and change that we hope to be different from the norm. BUT. Choosing to treat someone with respect because you have deemed them somehow lacking only makes YOU the person lacking class.
This thought process is exactly is what is fueling rape culture today and setting young men up to become possible rapists in the future. Think about it. If some girl is wearing a short skirt she must be a slut, and we’ve learned that we only treat certain people with respect if we feel like it. So…if she’s a slut and our young men don’t feel the need to respect her, if they want to take something that’s not theirs, it doesn’t really matter because their actions are not based on some moral compass of right and wrong, but rather on how they feel. That is terrifying, horrifying and unbelievably sad to me and I hope I can do something, no matter how small it is, to change that.
“Sluts” On A Subway
When I was 12 years old, my family and I took a load of furniture to some friends who had recently moved to New York. It was July, blistering hot and we had a grand, if not sweaty, time playing tourists.
I remember all of us pouring out of the subway and faced with several long flights of steps that led up into the city. There were two prostitutes struggling with a stroller, obviously trying to figure out how to get the heavy, unwieldy thing plus the baby, up the flight of stairs in their stripper heels. These girls were not much older than me and their tiny, clubbing dresses were completely inappropriate for the afternoon. The skirts were short enough you could easily tell what kind of panties they favored. Just saying, that’s how short those dresses were. Not only were their outfits inappropriate, they acted inappropriately. It made me feel uncomfortable to watch them.
My dad and his friend saw the girls struggling and instantly they each grabbed an end of the stroller and hauled the darn thing up two flights of stairs. With the child screaming its head off the whole time. They smiled at the girls and told them to have a nice day, and continued on their way.
This really isn’t that big of a deal because they do this sort of thing all the time. But my point is, they didn’t treat those girls any differently then they do my mother or Adrian and me. Because they were prostitutes and had all their body parts hanging out for all the world to see, it did not suddenly make it OK for them to treat those girls like a piece of meat. Why? Because they’re gentleman.
OTHER PEOPLE'S ACTIONS AND MANNERS (or lack thereof) DO NOT GIVE ANY OF US THE RIGHT TO TREAT OTHER PEOPLE POORLY.
If that’s a deciding factor for you, I highly suggest you reevaluate where you are as a person. My father is constantly reminding me, “It’s not what happens to you Lizzy, it’s HOW you respond. That’s the only thing you have control over.”
Please, let us be the change we want to see around us. Let us act with love and class to our fellow man, regardless of whether they "deserve" it or not.
xo xo Elizabeth